All photo credits: Scott Ergas
Sometimes I wonder if I am the James Dean of mountain hunting. Am I a rebel without a cause destined to solo hunt in perpetuity or just a scorned introvert who is naturally leery of others pulling their own weight?
The complex answer is, “perhaps both.”
The simple answer is, “Good hunting partners are hard to come by.”
There’s not a one-size-fits-all recipe for the ideal partner and often it is easier to know what you don’t want, rather than what you do want. Regardless, the following represents the fundamental traits one should consider if ever in the market for a solid hunting partner.
Things can go south quickly while hunting. Inclement weather, missed shot opportunities, unplanned food rationing, popped sleeping pads, electronic gadget malfunctions, sleep deprivation, muscle cramps, curious predators and even more curious rodents. Thriving and enduring requires mental fortitude and a positive perspective, which are by-products of attitude. Having a partner who is fun to be around, works hard and doesn’t complain — or dare I say “dwell” — is paramount to a lasting relationship chasing big game. A partner who is composed during shared suffering allows for that bond to grow and one who moans about every little thing allows for resentment to fester. Nothing can sour an adventure like a piss-poor attitude, but nothing can turn it around like genuine stoke!
You can overlook the snoring, but can you ignore the negative vibes?
Successful hunting consists of calculated pivoting. To do so in unison, partners must have a good balance of intelligence and physical strength. Sharing an idea to pull out of a drainage is great, but to be able to crest the ridge and relocate without smoking your body for the next day is another story. Partners should have complementary skill sets. One person could be a mountain goat hiking uphill, but be a wheel of double Gloucester cheese going downhill. The other person could be a superb elk caller, but a clumsy stalker. The yin and yang conquers the day because, ultimately, the mountain does not give a rat’s patootie about your plans or desires! When you both have the same motives and intentions, the odds of dual success and exceeding objectives goes up tenfold. A supreme hunting partner has your back and relishes in your triumphs. It is subtle and sincere.
To maintain a symbiotic relationship in potentially hostile environments, it involves effective communication. As an introvert, the idea of having a full-blown and potentially trivial conversation with the potential to spook out game gives me anxiety. I’m not advocating for finding a partner who is mute, but one who is succinct with their words and displays alternative ways to convey information. Non-verbal cues like pointing to your eyes with index and middle fingers split before holding up a number four, then making preschool turkey feather-trace fingers above your head and pointing in a direction might translate to “I see four bucks over there partner!” After a long, full day of hunting I see nothing wrong with playful banter and silly discussion while boiling water for dinner in the tipi tent. So you think Tom Selleck would smack Burt Reynold’s mustache off in a fisticuffs situation? Interesting smack talk can chop up the monotony of the day and lighten the mood, which could serve the team well! Regarding endearment—competition is a good thing. It typically allows us to elevate and improve our skill sets. If your partner has a competitive drive, but is ethical and pure in their support of you, then you can do no harm returning the sentiment as you both will benefit by “upping your game.”
Setting the bar high is your prerogative and is essential to finding someone you mesh well with. When your life and hunt are potentially on the line, you need to be able to rely on another and this is a vulnerable concept. If I was able to create the perfect hunting partner, they would have the patience of Ryan Lampers, the enthusiasm and spirit of Brian Barney and the stubborn resilience of Brady Miller.
If you find a legit hunting partner, keep them around for the long haul!